CLASSICAL MUSIC IN AMERICA: A History of Its Rise and Fall

Joseph Horowitz, Author . Norton $39.95 (606p) ISBN 978-0-393-05717-1

Horowitz (Understanding Toscanini ) surveys the course of classical music in America, discussing composers, performers, conductors, managers, entrepreneurs, critics and orchestras in a wide-ranging and provocative volume. The book's first half charts the vibrant years from the late 19th century to WWI, when major orchestras, including the Boston Symphony and the New York Philharmonic, were created, composers such as George Chadwick and Amy Beach were met with wide acclaim, and the visionary conductor Theodore Thomas was thrilling Gilded Age audiences. He makes a more contentious assessment of the period following WWI—a time of decline, in his view, as conductors and performers ignored new music and concentrated on works from the European past. Horowitz singles out Arturo Toscanini, who rarely conducted anything other than "canonized masterworks"; David Sarnoff, who created the NBC Symphony as a vehicle for Toscanini; and Arthur Judson, the powerful manager who promoted the familiar, conservative repertoire. Recycling the tried and true was a sure bet, and Horowitz blames this safer marketing strategy for our contemporary quandary: most composers of classical music find American audiences have little interest in what they have to offer. Horowitz doesn't deliver a solution to the problem, though, and his critical tone detracts from what is otherwise a valuable contribution to the history of classical music in this country. Illus. not seen by PW . Agent, Elizabeth Kaplan . (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/24/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Paperback - 618 pages - 978-0-393-33055-7
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